U.S. Military Budget




W

ith
his budget for 2006, President Bush appears to be fulfilling the
priorities of the U.S. electorate by emphasizing the “defense”
budget. Upon closer examination, the budget reveals a drift towards
the creation of a nation devoted to the military. 


News
accounts proclaim the military and homeland security “fiscal
winners” in the budget, but an even larger portion of tax dollars
are being used for military purposes than government statistics
and charts indicate. 


To
promote Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the budget boosts
military operations in the Department of Defense (almost 5 percent),
the Department of Homeland Security (7 percent), and the Justice
Department (17 percent). The $419.3 billion Department of Defense
budget is 41 percent higher than the pre-September 11, 2001 budget,
and 73 percent above the 2000 budget. In comparison with other countries,
these sums are already staggering. 


Based
on 2003 figures, the world spent approximately $956 billion on the
military, 10 times more than it spent on development assistance
in 2001. Adding the cost of the military occupation of Iraq and
Afghanistan to the proposed 2006 “defense” budget, the
U.S. will spend $500 billion on direct military purchases. 


That
means the U.S. will spend more on the military than the combined
total that the rest of the world spent in 2003. This is 8 times
more than China, which boasts the world’s second largest military,
larger than the next 23 nations combined and 7 times larger than
the combined military budgets of Russia and China. But the U.S.
military budget fails to account for other military expenditures,
which, if added together, account for an even larger share of world
spending and a much larger share of the U.S. budget than indicated.



Recall
that Bush’s expected $81 billion “supplement” for
the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was added to the military
budget, which at $500 billion is, in current dollars, almost 10
percent higher than at the height of the Cold War and 15 percent
higher than during the Vietnam War. Other money in the budget devoted
to military spending includes the cost for Defense/Civil programs
($44.5 billion); Homeland Security ($33.3 billion); and Veterans
Affairs ($68.3 billion). This pushes the total military budget to
$646 billion. Add $4 billion in foreign military financing from
the Department of State and the total reaches $650 billion. 


Other
spending is hidden within departments, such as Justice, Energy,
and NASA. While it will require experts to reveal these hidden funds,
the cost of the bonds to pay off past military spending also needs
to be included in the total cost of the U.S. military. In an article
in the

San Francisco Chronicle

, Robert Higgs calculates that
debt-financed defense spending amounts to almost $139 billion, which
brings the total amount that the U.S. spends on military projects
in 2006 to $789 billion. 


In
other words, the U.S. spends 30.7 percent of total government funding
on the military, much more than the 17 percent that calculations
reveal. This is larger than the Health and Human Services or Social
Security. 


As
a larger proportion of U.S. resources goes to the military, domestic
programs are being cut and the wealthy are given additional tax
breaks ($26 billion more in 2006). Over the next five years, Bush
plans to cut $212 billion from domestic programs, such as Medicaid,
food stamps for 300,000 low-income families, and child care assistance
for 300,000 children. Rather than paying for military increases
with taxes, they are allowed to become part of the deficit, which
will continue to run over $400 billion a year. 


Military
costs could go even higher. The Administration’s budget figures
exclude any future cost for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan—already
running $300 billion—or the cost of new military adventures
against North Korea, Syria, or Iran, which could easily add billions
to the military budget. Such expenses do nothing to make the country
safer. According to World Markets Research Center, which released
the World Terrorism Index, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and
Iraq “has exacer- bated anti-U.S. sentiment.” 


Spending
vast sums of money on the military may not make the U.S. safer but
it will create more demand for military invasions and occupations
and a spiraling need for more military funding.





Don Monkerud
is an Aptos, California-based writer.